May 21


Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller, jazz pianist, organist, and composer, was born in New York City. Waller started playing the piano at the age of six. At the age of 14, he was playing the organ at Harlem’s Lincoln Theater and within 12 months had composed his first song.

Waller was one of the most popular performers of his era, finding critical and commercial success in the United States and Europe. He was also a prolific songwriter and many of the songs that he wrote are still popular, including “Ain’t Misbehavin’” (1929) and “Honeysuckle Rose” (1934), which are in the Grammy Hall of Fame as recordings of “qualitative or historical significance.” Other recordings by Waller include “After You’ve Gone” (1930), “African Ripples” (1935), and “Jitterbug Waltz” (1942).

Waller died December 15, 1943 and a Broadway musical revue showcasing his tunes, “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” was produced in 1978 and ran for over 1600 performances. In 1968, Waller was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame, in 1970 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, in 1989 he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame, and in 1993 he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Biographies of Waller include “Ain’t Misbehaving: The Story of Fats Waller” (1975) and “Fats Waller” (2005).


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